The slow summertime trickle of school emails becomes a cascade and then a tsunami: Class schedules and bus schedules and practice schedules and have you filled out all the forms yet?
And then there’s the supply list: $50 textbooks and $140 graphing calculators and you must have photoshop installed on your laptop for the first day of art class.
Photoshop isn’t a problem, but the laptop to run it on, well, that’s a bit of an issue. When The Child started at this school, two years ago, parents were required to purchase laptops, which the school arranged, installed all the required software on, and agreed to maintain, for three years. In an effort to save everyone a bit of money, they shopped around and got what seemed to be a good deal.
I wrote the $850 check and made note that I would have to upgrade for a significantly larger sum, but not for three years – leaving me plenty of time to budget for it.
It didn’t quite work out that way. The school year began with a two-month-late laptop delivery, limped along through countless failed hard drives, and ended with a letter of apology from the administration to the parents. We’ll continue to maintain these computers for those who continue to use them for the remaining two years, they said, or you have the option to upgrade to the less budget-conscious, but much more functional, machines we’ll be using going forward. A lot of kids arrived at school with new computers the following fall; The Child looked on with envy, and tried not to complain too much.
We got the photoshop email and as she installed the software, we talked about how slow the computer was. I said all the helpful things that people usually say about computer problems, and we discovered that the school’s software package, at least, was quite effective, cleaning up all the useless files, blocking and removing all viruses. None of it helped.
The Child continued getting it ready for school, creating folders for all her classes, trying to be organized.
Maybe the school’s IT guy will have an idea, I said.
So, the day we met with The Child’s faculty advisor and got her new ID photo taken and stopped by the theater department, just to say hi, we went a bit further up the hall, to the IT department. I asked, is there anything we can do to speed this thing up?
He grimaces, but offers suggestions: I can swap out this or that part, that will help a little, and tells me the cost.
I don’t think putting any more money into this is a good idea, I say. What do the new laptops cost?
Well, for $1,500 there’s the base model, he begins, and though he’s already lost me at the base model, he continues on up to the top of the line.
I grimace, and struggle to come up with a solution somewhere in between his cost and my budget. I can’t do it, so I try to simply manage the problem at hand: Will her current computer run photoshop? I’m hoping to get one more year out of it – we were counting on using it for three years.
Ugh, he says.
Okay. Maybe there’s a software update that might help? Will you look at it for us?
It won’t help, he says, but he’s got another idea. It seems the school upgraded all the teachers’ laptops this year, and he’s got a pile of perfectly good laptops sitting in a cabinet and absolutely no use for any of them. I’ll move her stuff over to one of those, he says. It will be a step down from a new laptop, but a staircase up from what she’s currently on.
What will that cost? I ask hopefully.
He shrugs, those laptops are going to be loaners. Let it be a permanent loan.
I’ve never met him before, but I want to hug him.
The Child beams.
Thank you so much, I say. It doesn’t seem like enough, but it’s all I can think of.